Hundreds of local educators received their first COVID-19 shot Saturday at Loudon Municipal Park.

Loudon County Health Department vaccinated 516 people, the most shots given in one day. The previous high mark was 450 in early January, Teresa Harrill, county health department director, said.

County school employees came 9 a.m.-noon, while Lenoir City followed noon-3 p.m.

“Teachers have had probably 30 minutes to an hour wait, maybe an hour and a half,” Harrill said. “I’ve had some positive feedback already from some of the teachers via email and stuff that the process has been very smooth. Basically we had all their information ahead of time, so the guard is getting their name, we go find their paper, get them ready to vaccinate.”

Teacher anxiety played a role in covering educators at once, Harrill said.

“We felt like if we could do it one day, knock them out in one day, then we could have everybody,” she said. “Then we will do this, they’re getting the Pfizer vaccine, so we will do this exactly the same way in 21 days. The only thing we might do different is open up the other side of that tent and do a two-lane. We’ve got four tables set up so there’s four vaccination tables, so it wouldn’t really make a difference with two lanes to be honest. We’d be vaccinating the same amount.”

Teachers from both districts were given the opportunity for a shot but weren’t required.

“We are pleased that the LCHD offered the vaccines to any teacher who chose to participate,” Jeanne Barker, Lenoir City director of schools, said in an email correspondence. “Each person’s health is an individual, private concern. So, this was a service for teachers as they deemed appropriate. The process was very easy through our nurses to the health department. Our nurses are in constant contact sharing information for the benefit of all of our employees and students.”

Michael Garren, Loudon County director of schools, said 370 employees were vaccinated.

“I hope the vaccination provides our staff with a sense of security so they don’t have to worry as much about getting sick while providing for the children of Loudon County,” Garren said in an email correspondence. “They have done admirably this year and provided a quality in-person education every day to our students in a very professional manner.”

Harrill called Saturday “busy but steady.” She credited help from the Tennessee National Guard, volunteer nurses and department staff.

“I tell you what, the great thing has been we have nine volunteers doing vaccines,” she said. “We got the school nurses from Loudon County Schools, schools nurses from Lenoir City. We’ve got a retired school nurse, we’ve got an ER nurse. … (In addition) to our staff here, because we’ve got girls up here, got three staff members up here that are in one office that are drawing up vaccine.”

Kate Galyon, county schools Coordinated School Health coordinator, lent a hand.

“We’ve had lots of happy educators and it’s gone smooth,” Galyon said. “We have several of our school nurses out here assisting with the flow and we’re moving right along. … I would say one of the challenges has just been the weather. It keeps us working underneath the tent instead of being able to go further out into the line. We’re just finding our groove for the people that we do have.”

Loudon County is in phase 1b of the state’s vaccination plan, which includes K-12, child care staff and first responders. The county is also offering vaccinations to those at least 65 years old.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, phase 1c is set for March or April. Harrill said getting to that step could take “a while.”

“It’s going to be, because we’re still working on the 70s and I mean to be honest we haven’t really gotten to a lot of the 65 yet because we’re still working 70 and 75,” Harrill said. “It’ll be a while before we get to those folks.”

Any teacher who missed Saturday can call the health department at 865-458-2662 and schedule an appointment.